Our highest duty at this moment is to assist law enforcement in their investigation
AURORA, Colo. – The fact that the suspect in the horrible shooting tragedy in Aurora is a former graduate student at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus places the University in a complicated and difficult position in regard to information that can be shared publicly.
But before we explain the situation, we want to say again that the hearts of the University community are with the victims and their loved ones. We also acknowledge the heroic efforts of the numerous first responders and health care workers, many of whom are our colleagues and friends, who were profoundly touched by this tragic event. We are devoted to doing whatever we can to support them now and in the future.
While our hearts remain with those suffering, our resolve rests with law enforcement and other authorities who are carefully investigating the suspect in order to one day prosecute him for these terrible crimes.
In the process, the question has arisen from the media and others as to why the University cannot be more publicly forthcoming with the information we possess about the suspect.
The answer starts by stating unequivocally that to extent permitted under the law we have provided and will continue to provide every scintilla of information we have to the investigating law enforcement officials with whom we are fully cooperating.
The law enforcement authorities have asked us not to discuss the investigation for fear it could impede it and jeopardize the legal case against the suspect. Moreover, Judge William Sylvester has ordered those involved in the investigation not to discuss the case publicly in order to limit pre-trial publicity.
We intend to comply with both requests. We believe our highest duty at this moment is to assist law enforcement in their investigation and do nothing that could harm the case they are now building in their pursuit of justice for the victims and their families.
Further complicating the situation is the fact we must also comply with at least two other significant and strict federal laws.
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) precludes us from releasing all but basic information about any student at our institution. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) precludes us from answering any questions about the health care of any student, faculty or staff on our campus or patient at any of our health care facilities. We, our faculty and our employees are bound by these laws.
In abiding by our legal obligations to channel case related information only to law enforcement and judicial authorities, we risk being criticized for not releasing more information and having to endure publicity that in some cases is inaccurate. We hope the public will appreciate this dilemma in the midst of a major tragedy in which the pursuit of justice is a paramount concern.
The investigatory and legal process will likely take many months. As law enforcement officials and prosecutors move forward with their work we are committed to cooperating with them.
While we respect the desire of the news media to get their questions answered and the desire of many in the public to understand more of the details of these terrible events, we must keep our focus where it belongs — squarely on helping to the greatest extent possible the pursuit of justice for the victims and those they loved.
Chancellor, University of Colorado Denver
Executive Vice Chancellor, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus